For the first time since the 1980s, the students of Newcomb Music Department will produce a fully staged opera in March 2018 under the direction of Amy Pfrimmer. Despite the long hiatus, there is a century’s long tradition of opera at Tulane University, beginning in the 1910s with the first annual production of a Gilbert & Sullivan opera. Although a period often overlooked in the history of opera at Tulane, opera production blossomed in the 1950s under the leadership of Cardon V. Burnham, who created the Tulane Opera Workshop program that ultimately served as the foundation for all future opera productions at Tulane and that played a roll in the early years of Summer Lyric Theatre. The Opera Workshop was sustained in the 1960s by performances of new operas by then faculty member Charles Hamm, who launched his career as an acclaimed and pivotal musicologist here at Tulane. The program was later revived by long time director Frank Monachino, who sustained the program until a sudden loss of significant funding in 1985 led to the closure of Opera Workshop.
The history of Tulane Opera Workshop outline here is based on materials found in University Archives, the Jambalaya Yearbook, and reporting by The Times-Picayune. If you have concert programs, photographs, newspaper clippings, or any other materials that bear evidence of opera performances at Tulane, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact University Archives at (504) 865-5691.